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Government Guidance on Pubs, Bars and Restaurants – some initial thoughts

Our view of some of the main issues raised by the recent guidance

“These are our main take away points from the guidance issued by the Government relating to pubs, bars and restaurants reopening (you can access the guidance here)

The government defines these premises as any food preparation or service setting where food and drink is sold for consumption at venues or for take away or delivery, for example, restaurants, pubs, bars, beer gardens, food to go, cafés, social and similar clubs operating as bars and restaurants, mobile catering and contract catering or similar environments where food and drink is purchased and consumed at a venue in indoor or outdoor areas or offered for take away or delivery.

The headline point to take away is risk assessment – as an operator you must carry this out, in consultation with your employees, and you must make the results of this risk assessment known.

At present venues should not permit live performances, including drama, comedy and music to take place in front of a live audience. All venues are required to take steps to avoid people needing to unduly raise their voices to each other which includes but is not limited to refraining from playing music or broadcasts that may encourage shouting, including if played at a volume that makes normal conversation difficult, loud background music, communal dancing, group singing or chanting.

This is of course open to interpretation and we await the promised further guidance.

The requirement for indoor seating means managing the entry of customers, and the number of customers at a venue, so that all indoor customers are seated with appropriate distancing, and those outdoors have appropriately spaced seating or standing room.

Indoor table service must be used where possible, alongside further measures such as assigning a single staff member per table (although in our view this does not mean one member of staff for each table but rather to restrict if possible several members of staff serving the same table). Outdoor table service should also be encouraged, although customers are permitted to stand outside if distanced appropriately. Where bar or counter service is unavoidable, steps should be taken to prevent customers from remaining at the bar or counter after ordering.

Indoor gatherings are limited to members of any two households (or support bubbles), while outdoor gatherings are limited to members of any two households (or support bubbles), or a group of at most six people from any number of households. The guidance expects operators to make customers aware of, and encourage compliance with, limits on gatherings, for example, on arrival or at booking.

You must keep a temporary record of customers and visitors for 21 days to assist NHS Test and Trace requests for data if needed. Again, we await the promised system from the government which allows retention of such data in line with data protection legislation. Some premises will be more used to retaining customer personal information than others be it by way of ID scan, table reservations or other systems. For others this may be an additional burden.

Public toilets, portable toilets and toilets inside premises should be kept open and carefully managed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

The guidance requires and expects a large degree of cooperation between venues and with local authorities, including staggering entry times with other venues, arranging one-way travel routes between transport hubs and venues, and even expecting local authorities to avoid issuing licences for events that could lead to large gatherings.

Further cooperation is expected between venues, local authorities and private landlords regarding queues, public spaces and providing additional parking or facilities to help customers avoid using public transport.

There are measures required for maintaining hygiene and reducing contact, for example apps, contactless payments, table service, provision of hand sanitizers and reducing capacity and queues.

Ultimately this is a top level document that requires operators to think carefully from many angles – and some that they previously may not have had to look from. It is flexible, which is to be welcomed, but with flexibility comes a degree of uncertainty and we hope all those involved in the industry will continue to pursue a pragmatic interpretation of the rules.

The guidance covers safe working and operating practices; working from home; travelling to and from work; tips for social distancing within the premises, particularly toilets and high volume areas, etc. Full details can be read in the guidance.”

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